Does "One Coupon Per Customer" Apply To Couples Making Individual Purchases?

Liz is wondering what’s going on at her local Hobby Lobby. She’s a professional doll maker and she buys a lot of supplies from the craft store chain every month. So far, she and her husband have been able to use the company’s in-store coupons for separate purchases even if they stand together in line at the register, but it looks like her Hobby Lobby may be cracking down on that. Should it?

Here’s the letter Liz sent to Hobby Lobby:

I have been a doll artist for over 8 years and have my own website where I sell my dolls. I am also a Powerseller on eBay. I buy all of my supplies except for doll hair at my local Hobby Lobby store and I have done so for several years now. Hobby Lobby is one of my absolute favorite stores.

I love the 40% off one item coupons that are available every other week. In this economy it is harder for artists to make a profit, and as I have had to lower my prices, purchasing my clay while I can use a coupon is wonderful. During these weeks the coupon is offered, I always buy my polymer clay with coupon, and each day either I or my husband goes in and we stock up on one box of clay each day so our clay purchases alone average over $100 each month after coupon.

I often spend $100-$300 in additional supplies without coupon each month, and have receipts to prove it. So the money you lose from my coupons is more than made up for with other items I buy while I am there, which obviously your goal and a benefit of offering the coupon in the first place.

My husband and I each went to Hobby Lobby several weeks ago, and each purchased a box of clay and we each used a coupon. The cashier asked us if we were together and I told her that yes, we were. She frowned at us and asked if we were using separate credit cards to pay, we told her we were using separate credit cards and she reluctantly completed both of our transactions. I left feeling that she thought I somehow tried to swindle the store.

Then, a week or so ago, I saw a mother with her little girl who apparently had saved up money for some beads, and used a coupon. The child paid with cash, then the mother put her items on the counter to pay, and gave the cashier a coupon for her items.

The cashier then pulled out a sheet of paper and read her some additional rules about the use of these 40% off coupons, and the cashier told her she could not accept the coupon from her for her purchase. I couldn’t hear what she was reading aloud, as I was at the end of the line, and didn’t see any additional rules posted anywhere at the register.

I checked your website for any additional rules pertaining to the coupon, and cannot find any. Are their additional rules customers should know about? If so, shouldn’t they be printed on the coupon? I honor the rules on the coupon, one per customer per day, and do not wish to do anything wrong.

Any information you can pass on to me would be appreciated. Also, I would recommend that whatever the rules are for the use of the coupons that the store employees are each aware of them. Additionally, if there are more rules to the use of the coupons, perhaps they should be posted in the store and online. This will save your cashiers time and save the customer from being embarrassed or frustrated which might keep them from returning to shop at your stores.

As of right now, I’d rather start shopping at Michael’s or some other craft store near here if it is too much of a hassle to redeem the coupons that you offer.

Liz writes that she has yet to hear back from the company, but I’m curious about what others think.

It seems pretty clear that both Liz and her husband, as well as the mom and her kid, were following the rules of the coupon–one per customer, per day, and no stacking.

Is it okay for a store to tell customers, “We know that you’re here together and therefore we consider you a single customer even if you make separate purchases,” or should a store follow its coupon fine print exactly?

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